I felt like we could walk around all night and never find him. The sidewalks, glowing with Christmas lights shining from the gaily decorated store windows, were getting crowded as more townspeople turned out for the downtown open house. Stores were open late to usher in the season, and we were among those out to celebrate the coming of Christmas – not only by shopping and eating out, but by the most important event of all: visiting Santa Claus.
In a little twist this year, instead of having Santa greet kids in one location, the organizers of the downtown open house decided to have Santa roam the streets, and pop into different stores to pose for photos with the children and hear their Christmas wishes. On one hand, it was a good idea for businesses – having Santa hanging out would bring in more shoppers who might otherwise pass by. On the other hand, it was frustrating for kids who wanted to visit with him – but couldn’t find him as he moved from store to store.
Like my girl.
It seemed like we kept missing him.
We walked up one side of the street and down the other for an hour, peering in store windows, trying to find Santa. As we came out of the bookstore where we’d popped in to warm up, I said, “Okay, Beary girl, just one more loop around the streets and we head home. We could spend all night chasing Santa.” I could see the disappointment in her face, but it was getting colder and since I hadn’t planned on wandering the streets for two hours, neither of us had brought coats or gloves. She looked festive in her holiday dress (“I look like an elf, Mama!”), but festive didn’t equal warm.
“Okay,” she reluctantly agreed, and I saw her eyes searching the streets, straining to see a glimpse of red hat or white fur trim, hoping to see something that would point us in the right direction, finally get us to the place we really wanted to be.
She just wanted to find Santa.
I know what that feels like. I know all about the searching and hoping. Only I’m not looking for Santa. I’m looking for hope. I’m looking for peace. I’m looking for a space to breathe and grieve. And that’s hard to come by sometimes, especially at this time of year, when the holiday season kicks into full gear. I want to be fully present with my girl, create the kind of fun Christmas memories we did with her Daddy, but I don’t want her to be aware of how much that Christmas fun costs me sometimes. That’s a lot of pressure in an already intense time of year: be happy, be merry, don’t cry, keep going, get through.
So, yes. I’m searching, too. Looking for the bits of joy that will point me in the right direction, that will get me to a place of hope during this holiday. Because like my daughter, I want a Christmas wish to come true this year, too. All I want for Christmas? That part’s easy: I want the hope that life will feel real again someday.
She finally found Santa that night. Finally. In a little store on a side street. She never stopped hoping, even when I was ready to give up for the night. She had faith that if she just kept walking, kept watching out for him, she’d find him and tell him her Christmas wishes and all would be right with her world.
That seems simple enough.